House votes to end 'Don't Ask'
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives voted 234-194 last night to repeal the military's 17-year-old policy that prohibits gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the nation's armed forces.
Hawai'i's Reps. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, and Charles Djou, a Republican who was sworn in Tuesday, were in favor of ending the policy. Djou was one of only five House Republicans voting for the legislation.
The historic House vote followed the Senate Armed Services Committee vote of 16-12 to end former President Clinton's 1993 "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military but subjects them to expulsion if their sexual orientation becomes known. The measure still faces a vote in the full Senate.
The legislation passed, but only after the addition of an amendment by Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa. — a former Army captain who served in Iraq — that will delay the repeal's implementation.
Action must wait until after the Pentagon completes a study on the impact of the proposed changes by December. Also, no repeal could occur until President Obama, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense all certify that repeal "will not hurt military readiness or unit cohesion."
However, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a group at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado on Wednesday that he was comfortable with the legislation.
"Discrimination against gays and lesbians takes a very real toll on our national security," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said before the vote. "Many of the arguments spoken in favor of the exclusion and expulsion of gays and lesbians from our military have been heard before — when they were used to justify segregation."
Supporters of repealing "Don't Ask" say that 13,500 service personnel have been dismissed from the armed forces under the policy. In the early stages of the Iraq war, 320 people who spoke languages such as Arabic and Farsi were expelled because of their sexual orientation, Hoyer said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that lawmakers were pressing toward a vote because "it is the right thing to do."
WAR FUNDS, TAX BREAKS PASS
The Senate easily passed an almost $60 billion war funding bill yesterday, but anxiety over out-of-control budget deficits led House leaders to drop tens of billions of dollars in spending from a separate catch-all bill anchored by an extension of jobless benefits.
MILITARY, DISASTER AID
Highlights of the Senate war funding legislation:
• $33.5 billion for the Pentagon to fund a 30,000-troop surge in Afghanistan and other costs.
• $5.1 billion to replenish federal disaster aid accounts.
• $6.2 billion for State Department diplomacy and foreign aid, including for anti-terrorism allies such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
• $13.4 billion to pay disability pensions to Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
Highlights of House tax and spending legislation:
• Extends for a year about $32 billion in tax breaks that expired in January, including a property tax deduction for people who don't itemize, credits that help businesses develop new products, and a sales tax deduction that mainly helps people in states without income taxes.
• Increases taxes on investment and hedge fund managers, venture capitalists and many real estate investment partnerships by $18.7 billion.
• Increases taxes on oil companies by $11.8 billion by raising from 8 cents a barrel to 34 cents a barrel the tax they pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
• Raises taxes on multinational companies some $14.5 billion by limiting credits for paying foreign taxes.
• Imposes $11.2 billion in new Medicare taxes on lawyers, doctors and other service providers.
• $39.5 billion to continue unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless through November. In many states, the unemployed could receive benefits for up to 99 weeks.
• $4.6 billion to settle long-running class-action lawsuits brought by black farmers (over discrimination) and American Indians (over handling of 300,000 trust accounts).
• $4 billion to expand the Build America Bonds program, which subsidizes interest costs for local governments' construction projects.
• $1.5 billion in relief for farmers who suffered crop damage from natural disasters in 2009.
• $1 billion for summer jobs programs, for ages 16 to 21.
Provisions dropped by House leaders in response to deficit concerns:
• $24 billion for states to help cover Medicaid costs.
• $6.8 billion to provide health insurance subsidies to the jobless under the COBRA program.
• $22 billion for a 19-month reprieve from a scheduled 21 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors.
— Associated Press